Massive Grassroots Mobilization Helps Save Iran Peace Deal
September 11, 2015
Ben Wikler / MoveOn.org & Karoun Demirjian / The Washington Post
By a vote of 58 to 42, Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican effort to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, delivering the Obama administration a long-awaited, major foreign policy victory. But with Republicans in both chambers dead set on taking further shots to eviscerate the deal, and potentially even drag it to court to block its implementation, the Iran deal debate may not be over.
In the Senate:
A Rare Win for Peace and Diplomacy
Ben Wikler / MoveOn.org
(September 10, 2015) -- At 3:48 p.m. today, sitting in the third row of the gallery overlooking the U.S. Senate floor, I watched 42 lawmakers -- almost every Democrat and independent in the Senate -- walk up to the podium, thrust out a thumbs-down to vote "no" -- and take our country off the path to war.
There's no cheering allowed in the Senate. So I had to hold it in.
But now I can finally let it out: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Today, we did it. The other side had tens of millions of dollars. Our side had millions of people. The other side had TV ads. We had facts. The other side had fear. We had courage.
Sure, the Republicans will keep trying to undercut the Iran deal, just like they voted 60 times to repeal Obamacare. But today, with this vote, we made crystal clear that they're going to lose -- and the defenders of diplomacy and security are going to win. Because of that, America is stronger, and the world is a safer place.
To be honest, I'm still pinching myself. Did this really happen?
Not long ago, it seemed like a very long shot that the Iran deal would survive. Republicans would be united, the prediction went, and Democrats would be divided. The bill to torpedo the deal would sail through the House, through the Senate -- and then, President Obama's veto would be overridden by supermajorities in both houses.
But then the wind changed.
Through July, through August, we organized. Tens of thousands of MoveOn members and our friends made phone calls, visited their members of Congress, and spoke up at town halls. We signed petitions, chipped in for billboards and field organizers, and organized vigils -- including more than 200 events just tonight.1
Republicans had hoped that this summer would be like the summer of 2009, when rampaging Tea Partiers terrified Democrats and emboldened the most extreme Republicans. Instead, voices of reason and peace and diplomacy rose above the shouts on the other side.
And one after another, instead of rushing in fear to oppose the Iran deal, Democrats in Congress actually took the time to read it, to ask questions, to listen to scientists and veterans and faith leaders, to constituents, and to their consciences. Israeli security experts explained why they supported the deal. Ambassadors from allied countries made their case.
Democratic leaders in both houses -- including Senators Durbin, Reid, and Murphy, and Representatives Pelosi, Schakowsky, Lee, Doggett, Price, and so many others -- reminded their colleagues that this was one of the most important votes of their careers, and not one to be taken lightly.
And in the last two weeks, right up to the last moment, the trickle of support for the deal became a flood. We won the cloture vote in the Senate today. And enough Democrats have announced their support for the deal to sustain a veto in the House. Republicans may try more shenanigans -- we'll have to be vigilant -- but there's no going back.
* * *
Today was a breakthrough. But it wasn't just two months in the making -- it took us more than a decade of work. MoveOn members have tirelessly organized alongside allies like J Street, Win Without War, CREDO, the National Iranian American Council, Democracy for America, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Daily Kos, Peace Action, the Council for a Livable World, and many more.
Yesterday, I visited undecided Democrats in Congress with a group of people who knew the price we paid for getting this wrong before. Retired generals, combat veterans -- and a Gold Star mom, whose son had died in Iraq on Memorial Day. Please, they all said: Give diplomacy a chance. At last, their voices have been heard.
In the twelve years since we went to war in Iraq, we've elected a president, sent progressive champions to Congress, and changed the politics of war and peace.
None of this was easy. But as hard as it's been, it's hard to imagine anything more worthwhile.
P.S. Since the run-up to the Iraq War, we've never stopped working for peace -- and we won't stop now. Our monthly donors give us the consistent funding we need to win enormous victories like this one.
1. "Massive August Grassroots Mobilization to Support Iran Deal," MoveOn.org, September 4, 2015
Senate Rejects Attempt to Derail Iran Deal in Victory for Obama
Karoun Demirjian / The Washington Post
(September 10, 2015) -- Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican effort to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, delivering the Obama administration a long-awaited, major foreign policy victory.
But with Republicans in both chambers dead set on taking further shots to eviscerate the deal, and potentially even drag it to court to block its implementation, the Iran deal debate may not be over.
The vote on the procedural motion was 58 to 42, falling two votes short of the 60 votes needed to consider the resolution rejecting the agreement.
Meanwhile, the House on Thursday evening passed, 245 to 186, a resolution stating that President Obama didn't fulfill his obligations under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act because Congress has yet to see two confidential side agreements pertaining to the deal -- documents the administration says it doesn't have. The resolution also stated that the 60-day clock for Congress to approve the deal hasn't started.
But despite the House vote (and two more to come on Friday), the Senate action virtually assures that the deal will be implemented, at least in the short term. In recent days, the deal's opponents secured the votes to override Obama's promised veto. The successful filibuster of the resolution of disapproval now ensures Obama won't have to rely on his veto pen to preserve a major piece of his foreign policy agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate will vote on the resolution of disapproval one more time before the Sept. 17 deadline to see "if any folks want to change their minds." But he seemed to accept that there was no way to block its implementation via Congress.
"If we want to do anything further about this Iranian regime, bring me a bill with enough cosponsors to override a presidential veto," McConnell told his colleagues after Thursday's vote. "Otherwise, the American people will give us their judgment about the appropriateness of this measure a year from November."
But in the House, Republicans don't want to wait until the election to take aim at the pact from another angle.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said House Republicans will "use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow and delay this agreement from being fully implemented," including suing Obama to keep him from carrying out the deal.
"That is an option that is very possible," Boehner said.
A lawsuit would be a potentially dramatic postscript to a long fight over green-lighting the deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for easing economic sanctions on the rogue nation – a fight that has been in its final hours ensnared by procedural jockeying in both chambers of Congress.
In the House, leaders abruptly shifted course to quell a nascent uprising this week, and now may not consider a disapproval resolution at all.
Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, have been asking to see two confidential side agreements, struck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The administration argues it can't produce them because it never had the confidential documents.
On Friday, the House will take up a measure to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran. Then, it will likely reject an approval resolution for the entire deal that "is about holding every member accountable for their vote," Boehner said.
Now that efforts to block the deal through a disapproval resolution have faltered, many House conservatives are agitating for their Senate counterparts to follow their lead.
"I'd like to see the Senate actually go nuclear on this," said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). "Take up our resolution and also turn down the deal. There's a lot of different things that we could do."
A few senators might be receptive to the idea. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday sent House Republican leaders a letter, making the same argument as House conservatives about Congress not having to abide by the deal because of lawmakers not being privy to side agreements.
But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) indicated there isn't much interest among Senate Republicans in taking steps to formally assert that Obama is in violation of his obligations under the law.
Democrats, meanwhile, are frustrated and impatiently waiting to declare victory.
"It's time that we move on to something else. This matter is over," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after Thursday's vote. "You can continue re-litigating, but it's going to have the same result."
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.
Karoun Demirjian covers defense and foreign policy and was previously a correspondent based in the Post's bureau in Moscow, Russia. Before that, she reported for the Las Vegas Sun as its Washington Correspondent, the Associated Press in Jerusalem, the Chicago Tribune, Congressional Quarterly, and worked at NPR.
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